George Smith Partners is one of the oldest commercial mortgage banking firms in the country. They had already been in the business for decades when I was just a puppy. They are also pretty good marketers. They publish a wonderful weekly newsletter called FINfacts. In this week's newsletter the mortgage banking firm had a number of tombstones, one of which justifiably boasted of a $35 million closing:
"George Smith Partners secured $35,000,000 in capital for the conversion of the Norton Building, located in the Fashion District of Downtown Los Angeles. The capital is going to be used to convert the existing mixed-use asset into creative office space with ground floor retail."
Huh? What on earth is creative office space? I had to look up the term because it was brand new to me, although it has apparently been a hot buzzword in the commercial real estate development and leasing industry for several years.
The term, creative office space, is a slippery little devil, and I had to read five long articles before I could get a handle on it. There was no single definition that jumped out at me, so the best I can do is to list some of the characteristics of creative office space:
- Perhaps the best way to define creative office space is to say what it is not. Gone are the days where an office consisted of a reception desk and a number of traditional office cubicles for the employees. Cubicles can be very solitary and lonely, and they’re definitely not the most encouraging of environments in which to spend nine hours a day.
- Creative office space allows flexibility about where you sit and how you work. Cubicles are so 2001. These days it’s all about an open plan office. Not only does an open plan offer a more welcoming environment, it can also increase communication among colleagues.
- Creative office space may feature comfortable chairs and couches arranged in a circle to encourage collaboration. Creative office space may also have several conference tables set up for short, impromptu meetings among workers. There will also be plenty of private work stations for when quieter work space is needed.
- Creative office space will often enjoy colorful and pleasing wall colors, hardwood floors, comfortable upholstered chairs around a coffee table, and flowers displayed throughout.
- Notwithstanding the above, open space, without ceilings and flooring, (think: warehouse loft) is often found in creative office space.
- The most important characteristic of creative office space is that it is office space designed to be as comfortable as a home. After all, workers spend much of their lives in the space. When talking about creative office space, it is common to use the term, "Bring life to work."
Co-working spaces are gaining traction as the number of independent contractors and freelance professionals continues to rise. According to a study by Intuit, it is estimated that by 2020, 40% of the American workforce will be comprised of such independent contractors and freelancers. Going beyond the traditional “executive suite”, these co-working spaces are about creating a community to collaborate.
- Lastly, successful creative office space buildings will often offer such amenities as fitness centers, bike rooms, conference centers, and tenant lounge areas. They also incorporate outdoor spaces, such as rooftop decks or grass lawn areas, in order to create a more residential feel. Pets are even sometimes allowed. Such space strives for a better, more productive, work-life balance.
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